From 1978 to 1991, 126 multiply-injured patients of 65 years and over were admitted to the Department of Traumatology and Emergency Surgery of the University Hospitals of Leuven. The seriousness of the injury was evaluated using the Injury Severity Score (ISS) and the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). Traffic accident (57 per cent) and a simple fall at home (30 per cent) were the main causes of injury. The overall mortality rate within 6 months was 17 per cent. Multiple system organ failure (MSOF) was responsible for the fatal outcome in 48 per cent of the cases and in 71 per cent of the deaths more than 7 days after trauma. Of the survivors still living at home before injury, 78 per cent were able to go back to their normal surroundings. Survivors were compared with non-survivors. There was no significant difference in age or in ISS, nor in pre-existing diseases. On the other hand, the GCS was of important prognostic value, both for survival and functional recovery (P < 0.001). Also, the need for early intubation and continued ventilation were predictive of survival (P < 0.001). Nevertheless, this need for respiratory assistance was not an indication for withdrawing support as 9 per cent of the survivors also required endotracheal intubation for 5 days or longer. In our opinion, aggressive trauma care for the elderly is justified.